James Traub on Promoting Democracy Through Free Trade

James Traub is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, where he has worked since 1998. From 1994 to 1997, he was a staff writer for The New Yorker. He has also written for The New York Review of Books, Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic and elsewhere. His articles have been widely reprinted and anthologized. He has written extensively about international affairs and especially the United Nations.

In recent years, he has reported from Iran, Iraq, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Vietnam, India, Kosovo and Haiti. He has also written often about national politics and urban affairs, including education, immigration, race, poverty and crime.

His books include, The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power; The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square; City On A Hill, a book on open admissions at City College; and The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

James Traub:  Well, we’ve obviously just have an incredibly vivid proof of how intensely tied together national economies are in this globalized world of ours.  So, now, we find even emerging economies that haven’t invested in sub-prime mortgages are getting hammered.  And so, clearly, globalization is not a thing that one could talk about being for or against their wishing to have more or less of it.  It is just… it’s the air we breathe.  It’s the fact of our life.  And so, the question is how can this be used as a positive as opposed to as a negative and I think trade is a key example, because when we talk about needing to help impoverished countries, for example, you know, we should give them more aid and so forth.  And I think if we can use the aid wisely that’s right.  But, in general, those numbers are small compared to the kind of revenue that these countries can be receiving in a freer trade system.  And so, the failure of all the major trading nations of the world to arrive at some regime and what was called the [Doha round], some regime of global free trade which would have among other things produce tremendous benefits for impoverished countries hoping to penetrate the markets of more developed country that’s a disaster.  That’s really a disaster.  And it is fair to ask of Obama who has been, who is like any Democrat needs to court unions and others who are very skeptical about free trade.  It’s fair to ask of Obama whether he is really going to commit himself to the kind of global trading regime which will bring real benefits to impoverished nations especially if it means telling some American farmers we can’t keep giving you these subsidies anymore. 


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